Some parents have objected to sexual content, profanity, and violence in The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini in Burke County, NC, schools. The Kite Runner was reviewed (and subsequently approved for use in classrooms) in February 2008. NCAC and ABFFE’s letter to the school board regarding the challenges is below:

 

David Burleson, Superintendent
Members of the Burke County Board of Education
700 East Parker Road
PO Drawer 989
Morganton, NC 28680

November 17, 2008

Dear Mr. Burleson and Members of the Board of Education:

We write to oppose efforts to remove the books, The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, from middle and high school curricula in Burke County Schools.  We understand that some parents object to sexual content, profanity, and violence in the books; as we stated in our attached letter, sent in February, when The Kite Runner was reviewed (and subsequently approved for use in classrooms), the views of a few parents are not shared by all, and banning the books would violate the First Amendment rights of students and parents who want their children to read the books.  We urge the School Board to follow a thorough review process for responding to formal complaints about curriculum materials, as outlined in district policies. 

We also understand that the board is considering the proposed policy, “Parental Inspection of and Objection/Challenge to Classroom Instructional Materials.”  We encourage school officials, teachers, and parents to work together in educating students, and we urge the School Board to uphold policies for helping teachers to convey the educational rationales for the books the district has deemed pedagogically appropriate.  School curricula should be decided by the educational professionals most familiar with the students’ educational needs and interests.  Parents have a right to request an alternative assignment if they or their children object to materials assigned, but they do not have a right to demand one if the required reading is offered for legitimate educational purposes.

Offering an open meeting at the start of each semester or school year to discuss the books assigned and the reasons for teaching them would allow concerned parents to ask questions without consuming teachers’ time with individual meetings.  Parents who have further concerns or questions could then schedule individual meetings with their child’s teacher.  For your reference, NCAC’s Guide to the First Amendment in Schools, and in particular, Section IV, “Roles and Responsibilities in Promoting First Amendment Values at School,” available online at /blog/the-first-amendment-in-schools-introduction/, may be of particular relevance in your upcoming policy discussions. 

In addition, as is described in the district’s Media Handbook, we urge you to adhere to your existing policy of depending on “reputable, unbiased selection tools” as references for evaluating or describing the educational merits of supplemental materials.  Two Web sites included in the proposed policy, www.pabbis.org and www.classkc.org, do not meet this standard.  Instead, we urge you to refer instructional staff to the recommendations of professional education organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English (www.ncte.org) and the International Reading Association (www.reading.org).

We strongly urge you to keep The Bluest Eye, Beloved, The Color Purple, The Catcher in the Rye, The Kite Runner, and other classic works of American literature available in Burke County Schools and to protect students’ First Amendment rights in the creation of any policies about instructional materials.  If we can be of assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Sincerely,

                                                           
Joan Bertin                                                   Chris Finan                  
Executive Director                                         President
National Coalition Against Censorship              American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
                                           
pair.ncac.org                                               www.abffe.com                            

                                       

Resources

Book Censorship Toolkit

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